The Science of Nature

, 106:33 | Cite as

Fatty acid profiles of the European migratory common noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula)

  • Christian C. VoigtEmail author
  • Elisabeth Rosner
  • Christopher G. Guglielmo
  • Shannon E. Currie
Original Article


In animals, fatty acids (FA) are essential as structural components in membranes and for energy storage in adipocytes. Here, we studied the relative proportions of FA in a mammal with extreme changes in metabolic rates. Common noctule bats (Nyctalus noctula) switch from energetically demanding long-distance migration at high metabolic rates to regular torpor with extremely low metabolic rates. We found that composition of FA categories differed between adipose tissue types (white adipose tissue (WAT) vs brown adipose tissue (BAT)) and muscle tissue types (skeletal vs heart), but not between sexes. We found oleic acid to be the most abundant FA in all studied tissues. Concentrations of polyunsaturated FA (PUFA) were not always higher in muscular tissue compared with adipocyte tissue, even though high concentrations of PUFA are considered beneficial for low body temperatures in torpor. In all tissues, we observed a high content in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), possibly to compensate for a low PUFA content in the diet. Ratios of ω6/ω3 were lower in the heart than in skeletal muscles of common noctules. Three FA (palmitic, oleic, and linoleic acid) accounted for about 70% of the FA in adipose tissue, which is similar to proportions observed in migrating birds, yet migrating birds generally have a higher PUFA content in muscle and adipose tissues than bats. Bats seem to contrast with other mammals in having a high MUFA content in all tissues. We conclude that FA profiles of bats differ largely from those of most cursorial mammals and instead are—with the exception of MUFA—similar to those of migrating birds.


Chiroptera Exercise Torpor Migration Adipose tissue 



We thank Doris Fichte, Anja Luckner, Karin Sörgel, Tobias Dürr, Gudrun Wibbelt, Raymond Thomas, and Morag Dick for the help during specific stages of the project. We thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.

Funding information

This project was supported by a travel grant from the DAAD, a Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and the Ontario Research Fund.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian C. Voigt
    • 1
    Email author
  • Elisabeth Rosner
    • 1
    • 2
  • Christopher G. Guglielmo
    • 3
  • Shannon E. Currie
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Evolutionary EcologyLeibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife ResearchBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Zoological Institute and MuseumErnst-Moritz-Arndt-University GreifswaldGreifswaldGermany
  3. 3.Department of Biology, Advanced Facility for Avian ResearchUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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